Clyde Johnson On WPAQ

Recently found in the Ralph Epperson Collection, from the recordings of WPAQ Radio in Mount Airy, NC, was a delightful tape of Clyde Johnson and the Stringdusters from the June 15, 1985 broadcast of the WPAQ Merry-Go-Round, a weekly live radio program for local musicians. The Stringdusters had a rotating membership that always included Clyde Johnson, host of the Merry-Go-Round for 47 years (until his death in 2007). Highlights include two songs sung by Rafe Brady, “Take A Drink On Me” & “Waltz Across Texas With You”. Rafe’s unique blend of character and warmth in his aging voice helped give the  program it’s usual down home feel.

The entire Ralph Epperson Collection has now been digitized for preservation and access. This work was made possible though support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“Take A Drink On Me”: take-a-drink-on-me

“Waltz Across Texas”: waltz-across-texas

Photo Of The Week: Elvis Presley


Our last post reminded me of this photo from our general collection, a snapshot of Elvis Presley riding in a parade. Someone much more famous must be riding behind, because no one in the crowd is looking at Elvis. We aren’t sure where or when this photo was taken or who is riding along, but if you think you know please drop us a line in the comments. The photo was taken in 1955 at the Jimmie Rodgers Festival in Meridian, MS. The man on the left is Jimmy Snow.

You're No Elvis

**UPDATE**  See the comments below for a more in depth discussion
Often we rely on our researchers for valuable information about the material in our collections: they are the ones who spend the most time with the material, and they definitely have the most expertise. A case in point: a recent discovery in our Elvis Presley Instantaneous Disc Collection, from a set of acetate masters for the soundtrack of the 1963 Elvis movie It Happened at the World’s Fair. A researcher who specializes in all things Elvis has pointed out that one of the the songs in the collection, “The Life I Love” (FD-1190), is not a recording of Elvis Presley at all, but most likely sung by P.J. Proby, a Texas native whose act the folks at MGM apparently found so Elvis-like that they contracted him to record demos of songs they were considering for Presley.
It makes sense that this particular song would only exist in demo form: “The Life I Love” never appeared in the movie, so it’s likely Elvis never recorded his own version, and the existing Presley discographies make no mention of the song.
P.J. Proby would go on to have a very impressive recording career of his own, scoring three top-ten hits in the UK in the mid-sixties, appearing on the Beatles TV special, and recording an album with the future members of Led Zeppelin. Later in his career Proby would continue to capitalize on his similarities to Elvis, portraying the King in various productions of Elvis: The Musical.
Listen to “The Life I Love”, likely sung by P. J. Proby (commenters seem to disagree as to who, exactly,  is singing this demo): the-life-i-love

"Bowling Green" John Cephas, 1930-2009

John Cephas at Merlefest, 1999
John Cephas at Merlefest, 1999, from the Becky Johnson Collection

In March of this year, the music world lost one of its best and brightest when John Cephas, world-famous proponent of the famous Piedmont style of guitar picking, passed away.  Cephas, widely known for his partnership with harmonica player Phil Wiggins, was a regular on the blues festival circuit, bringing the mellow sounds of the Piedmont to enthusiastic crowds on every continent (except Antarctica – too bad for the penguins!) Winner of a slew of awards (including a National Heritage Fellowship Award in 1989), he tirelessly worked to bring traditional blues music to audiences old and new.
Take a moment and remember Mr. Cephas with us, and enjoy Piedmont style picking at its very best.
Listen to a clip of Cephas & Wiggins performing “Twelve Gates To The City”, from the 1995 album Cool Down: twelve-gates-to-the-city

SFC Preservation Reaches 10,000 Recordings

John Loy in the Rivers Studio
SFC Audio Engineer John Loy in the Rivers Studio

This month the Southern Folklife Collection is celebrating the preservation of our 10,000th recording. Over the years the SFC staff have spent many hours restoring and preserving all types of media in a wide variety of conditions, transferring at risk recordings to digital preservation masters. These preservation masters are created under optimal playback conditions in our Rivers Studio (pictured), and transferred according to best archival practices. We hope that our efforts will provide access to at risk recordings for years to come.

Listen to a clip from our 10,000th preservation master, Billy Faier singing “Wreck of the Old 97”, from the Billy Faier Collection: wreck-of-the-old-97

The Strange Case Of The DeAutremont Brothers

Here’s an interesting song we came across recently in the Ed Kahn Collection: “The Strange Case of the DeAutremont Brothers”, recorded in 1928 by banjo and guitar duo The Johnson Brothers. It dramatized a sensational train robbery that took place outside of Medford, Oregon in 1923. The would-be robbers (brothers Hugh, Ray, and Roy DeAutremont) badly botched the job, murdering four innocent men in the process. The DeAutremont brothers escaped the scene with their lives, leading authorities on a international manhunt until they were finally apprehended, tried, and sentenced to life in prison in 1927. The Johnson brothers recording no doubt sought to turn some of the recent trial publicity into record sales.
Listen to a clip of “The Strange Case of the DeAutremont Brothers”:

Ray DeAutremont (L), with Gary Williams, 1973
Ray DeAutremont (L), with Gary Williams, 1973

The clip below is from a tape made in 1973 by Eugene area journalist Gary Williams (tape FT-12658, Ed Kahn Collection), including an interview with the by-then paroled Ray DeAutremont. Ray is reluctant to speak about the murders, but does offer a few interesting (though self-serving) words on the subject of regret.

Listen to Ray DeAutremont  in 1973:
You can read more on the strange case of the DeAutremont Brothers in Oregon’s Great Train Holdup: The DeAutremont Case No. 57893-D.

Hold The Date!

The SFC is happy to announce three events on our Fall 2009 schedule. More details to follow. We hope you’ll be able to join us.

Mick Moloney

Mick Moloney Lecture
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Reception at 5:00pm, Talk at 6pm
Pleasants Family Assembly Room, 2nd Floor, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
Lecture by folklorist and Irish musician Mick Moloney on the connections between Jewish and Irish musicians and lyricists in Tin Pan Alley.
We are co-sponsoring the event with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for the Study of the American South, American Studies Dept., Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, and the Friends of the Library.
George Stoney Film Screening
George Stoney
George Stoney

Friday, October 16, 2009
Location Stone Center Theater, Stone Center, UNC-Chapel Hill.
Reception at 5:00pm, Talk at 6pm
Film Screening and Q&A with documentary filmmaker George Stoney.
Event co-sponsored with Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and the Friends of the Library.
Archie Green Memorial Symposium
Archie Green with Dock Walsh, 1963
Archie Green with Dock Walsh, 1963

Saturday November 21, 2009
Pleasants Family Assembly Room, 2nd Floor, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
A symposium in honor of folklorist Archie Green. The event will include panel discussions, reminiscences and performances.
Event co-sponsored with UNC-Chapel Hill Folklore Program, American Studies Dept.